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Name: Cindy
Status: educator
Grade: 6-8
Location: IA
Country: USA
Date: N/A 

Could you provide me with a definition of plasma? Are there any examples?


I think flame is probably the simplest example. A simple Bunsen burner can be used to show how two invisible gases form a very bright new state of matter. Or if you prefer electrical demonstrations, you can use a fluorescent light. Lightning and the sun are also plasmas. To describe plasma, I suggest you emphasize the brightness of the material and talk about plasmas being higher-energy versions of gas (although technically this is nott quite true, it is a substitute for the atomic/ionic description).

Wikipedia has a good list of other common plasmas...

Hope this helps,
Burr Zimmerman


Here is a good clear and hopefully understandable definition of plasma:

I think for your purposes, the following statement might be appropriate:

"Plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. The basic premise is that heating a gas dissociates its molecular bonds, rendering it into its constituent atoms. Further heating leads to ionization (a loss of electrons), turning it into a plasma: containing charged particles, positive ions and negative electrons."


Picture an atom with the nucleus of neutrons and positively charged protons in the center and negatively charged electrons orbiting around the nucleus, all in electrical charge balance. An ion is when some of the orbiting electrons are removed and you have a mass of positively charged nuclei and some free flying electrons in the form of a cloud. Scientists are trying to confine plasmas in special containers to build significant densities and energies to ignite a nuclear fusion reaction (just like on the sun) instead of burning fuels to generate electrical power for our sophisticated life styles.

Sincere regards,
Mike Stewart

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